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Posted 28.11.19

Addressing the gender disparity in the engineering industry is a task that encompasses the entire recruitment process and beyond. 

In my previous articles, I’ve talked about why Cordant Engineering believe addressing the gap is important, and how your appraisal process can support and detract from your business’ efforts address your own gender balance. 

In this article, I’m going to look at what is, in most cases, the first impression a candidate makes on your business.

Why do we use CVs to recruit?

Whether you are receiving advert responses, sourcing candidates online from jobs boards, or looking on LinkedIn for suitable candidates, in essence the recruitment process starts when a hiring manager reviews a list of skills, experiences and achievements that a person has chosen to represent them in the marketplace. 

Articles have been written (including by my own organisation!) about the death of the CV, but all this really means is the death of the medium, not the content. There is also a huge amount of information available online about how to write a good CV, which may make it seem as though recruitment by CV is a meritocratic process, and the fairest way to decide which candidates are at least suitable to progress to the next stage of the process.

How does using CVs create bias?

In reality, when we review CVs, we don’t just make judgements based on the information we’re given on the page. Instead, we use that information to make deductions about a person as a whole. 

This may not be intentional; in fact, unconscious biases shape our thoughts without us ever having noticed, but at the same time as we’re judging the content on the page, we’re filling in any gaps in the information with our own assumptions. 

This has a disproportionate effect on candidates whose CVs don’t fit the pattern we’re expecting them to; candidates who have moved companies or locations frequently, or who have gaps in between roles, or who haven’t had a straight progression in their chosen profession. And the candidates who are most likely to feature these unusual patterns are women and minorities.

How do I address that bias?

Recruiting without CVs is not necessarily possible, or even desirable; after all, a candidate’s skills and experience are still relevant to the recruitment process, and in many cases, it’s important for candidates to have specific qualifications or experience in order to perform the role correctly. 

However, some features which can be off-putting to hiring managers should be reconsidered, as they can unfairly exclude people, narrow your talent pool, and ultimately lead you to miss the ideal candidate!

  • If the candidate has moved roles frequently, this can be an alarm bell as it could suggest their performance has not been of a high enough standard, or that they may not commit to your business. However, it’s important to consider that the current employment climate means that many jobs are short-term or less secure. The benefits of such a candidate may include their adaptability to new situations, their resilience in trying circumstances, and the ideas they have gathered from working in different businesses.
  • If the candidate has gaps between roles, employers can worry that the candidate has other commitments that will make them unreliable, or that they have fallen behind in their technical skills. The first thing to consider is whether you have ever met a candidate who didn’t have other commitments! The reliability of a candidate is likely to increase exponentially if they are able to discuss their commitments openly, and also if they are given some flexibility to deal with their home lives; that goes for everyone, not just those with gaps on their CVs. Technical skills can be taught, and if a candidate has experience in a similar role they have already demonstrated their ability to pick up those skills. A returner from a career gap may indeed be more motivated to learn and develop their skills.
  • If the candidate doesn’t have a clear and straight progression from role to role, this might suggest a lack of skill, or commitment to their profession. In fact, there are many reasons why people don’t progress in straight lines, including the fact that the workforce as a whole is ageing.  As people stay in jobs longer, there are fewer high-level positions available, so competition for those positions is much tougher than in previous years. Furthermore, some people may not have been able to pursue their dream career straight out of school, and so have only recently begun to climb the ladder.

In any case, overlooking these candidates may mean you miss the enthusiasm and dedication that they can bring to your team.

Questions? Comments? Get in touch with Project Coordinator, Helen Addis | 07980 755 729 | helen.addis@cordantrecruitment.com

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